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Number of pensioners in rented homes has doubled in the last decade

Higher life expectancies, poorer pension returns and a social housing crisis are leaving more older people with few options about where to live

A major increase of older tenants in the last ten years points to a worsening social housing crisis, experts have said, triggering urgent calls for the Government to stop landlords being able to evict tenants at short notice without a good reason.

New research has found the number of pensioners in privately rented homes has nearly doubled since 2010, leading campaigners to say over-65s are being left without options when choosing somewhere to live.

“In the past, older people with lower incomes, or those looking to downsize, would have looked to social housing,” Morgan Vine, head of policy and influencing at Independent Age, told The Big Issue. “However, the current major shortage of social housing means many older people simply don’t have that option.”

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The number of  people over 55 in rented accommodation has increased by 118 per cent since 2010, according to a new analysis of government figures by bank Paragon.

Researchers found that the number of older tenants is rising at double the rate of 35 to 44 year-olds, the next fastest growing group in privately rented homes.

Nearly two million UK pensioners live in poverty, according to Age UK. Of the 750,000 older tenants across the country, 34 per cent (255,000) are in relative poverty – meaning they have an income of £17,760 or less.

Many older people face higher living costs if they have a disability or care needs and are more likely to have to spend on heating if they live in a poorly insulated home.

Paragon’s managing director of mortgages Richard Rowntree also pointed to rising divorce rates, poorer pension returns and growing life expectancy as factors that mean fewer older people own their homes.

Nearly seven in 10 of over-55s said renting suited them, while 63 per cent said it was a relief to not have to worry about repairs.

Section 21 evictions can be used as a threat against older people who request aides or adaptations, or repairs, from their private landlord

Vine added: “Home ownership is dropping across the board as house prices have soared, and more people are having to rent privately for longer, resulting in more people entering older age without owning their own home. 

“It’s very likely that we will continue to see a rise in older private renting, due to a lack of savings in many middle aged households – in 2016/17, 755,000 of middle-aged renting households had no savings at all. If they were to entirely replace the existing 65-plus cohort, it would equate to an 82 per cent increase in older private tenants.”

When asked why they rented, nearly 40 per cent said they couldn’t afford a mortgage deposit while 16 per cent said it enabled them to live in an area that was too expensive to buy in.

People living in privately rented homes are most at risk of living in poor conditions, the Centre for Ageing Better said, telling The Big Issue that a fifth of the country’s housing stock is classified as “non-decent”.

The number of older people renting is driven in part by a fall in social housing, the Centre for Ageing Better’s senior programme manager Henry Smith agreed. 

He added: “The number of older renters is only likely to increase so landlords must cater for older tenants by making it easier for them to adapt their homes to make them accessible and safe to live in.”

Campaigners including Independent Age said ending Section 21 so-called “no fault” evictions – which the Government pledged to do last year – is key to protecting older tenants.

While Section 21 is an issue for private renters of all ages, for older people it introduces a huge amount of insecurity at a time in their lives when security is essential,” Vine said. “It can also be used as a threat against older people who request aides or adaptations, or repairs, from their private landlord.”

“We have also called on the Government to look into longer secure tenancies, making longer leases the norm, local tenant advocates, and local rent controls similar to those operating in Germany. These steps will allow all private renters the security they deserve as they grow older.” 

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